Regional News: BP Claims Handling Fraud?; Abused Child, Starving Pets; Donors Save Home

By: AP
By: AP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A former FBI director has recommended that the Justice Department investigate whether several lawyers plotted to corrupt the settlement program designed to compensate victims of BP's 2010 Gulf oil spill.
But the independent probe led by Louis Freeh didn't find any evidence of wrongdoing by the multibillion-dollar settlement's court-appointed administrator, Patrick Juneau. He has been a target of BP's increasingly aggressive campaign to challenge payouts to Gulf Coast businesses.
Freeh was appointed by a federal judge to investigate alleged misconduct by a staff attorney who worked on the settlement program. Freeh concluded Friday that then-top members of Juneau's staff engaged in conduct that was improper, unethical and possibly criminal.
The report found nothing that warranted shutting down payments to victims of the oil spill.

BAY MINETTE, Ala. (AP) -- Authorities says an inspection of a tractor trailer near the Alabama coast turned up duffel bags stuffed with more than $1.4 million in cash.
WKRG-TV reports the truck was stopped on Interstate 65 in Baldwin County during commercial vehicle inspections by the Interstate Interdiction Task Force.
Authorities say officers were given permission to search the truck by the driver Thursday and they found the four duffel bags filled with cash stashed in the vehicle's sleeper compartment. They money was seized and taken to a bank for counting, then turned over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for forfeiture.
Officials say the truck driver said he didn't know whose cash it was or how they money got in his truck.

VANCE, Ala. (AP) -- Tuscaloosa County sheriff's deputies have arrested a couple after finding nine starving pets inside a mobile home in Vance.
The Tuscaloosa News reports neighbors called authorities to check the mobile home, where they found seven dogs and two cats that were emaciated and had no food, water or air conditioning. Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Andy Norris says deputies also found a dead cat among the animals. He says electricity to the home had been cut off.
The mobile home's owners, Ricky and Glenda Martin, were arrested Friday and charged with nine counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, a felony.
Norris says the couple told investigators they were still living in the mobile home. They were arrested outside their child's high school.

Ala. man gets life sentence for fish fry killing
ABBEVILLE, Ala. (AP) -- A judge has sentenced an Abbeville man to life in prison for killing his stepbrother in 2011 at a family fish fry.
The Dothan Eagle reports 48-year-old Carl Bernard Kennedy received the maximum punishment at a hearing Friday. He faced a sentence of 10 years in prison to life after a Henry County jury convicted him of murder last month.
Authorities say Kennedy used a shotgun to blast 31-year-old Clarence "Boo" Williams in the face during a family fish fry May 21, 2011. District Attorney Sam Clenney said there was no obvious provocation for the attack. However, authorities have said the victim apparently had refused to lend money to his stepbrother.
Police say Kennedy fled the slaying scene in his Jaguar and was captured several days later in Miami.

Ala. authorities investigating death of child
GADSDEN, Ala. (AP) -- Authorities in Etowah County are investigating the death of a child who was hospitalized after being found inside a car. reports sheriff's officials were releasing few details about the death Saturday. Etowah County sheriff's spokeswoman Natalie Barton says the child died Friday at a Birmingham hospital, where the child was taken after it was found in a car outside a home near Gadsden.
Barton says the death "appears to be a tragic accident" and no charges are expected, but authorities are still investigating.

NASA launches robotic explorer to moon from Va.
NASA's newest robotic explorer is on its way to the moon.
(AP) -- An unmanned rocket blasted off from Virginia's Eastern Shore late Friday night, carrying the LADEE (LA'-dee) spacecraft.
It was a change of venue for NASA, which typically launches its moon missions from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The launch provided a rare light show along the East Coast for those blessed with clear skies.
NASA expected the launch to be visible, weather permitting, as far south as South Carolina, as far north as Maine and as far west as Pittsburgh.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, should reach the moon on Oct. 6. It will orbit Earth's closest neighbor for a few months, analyzing the ever-so-delicate atmosphere and lunar dust. The six-month mission costs $280 million.

Tampa man accused of abusing, killing 3-year-old
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Authorities say a Tampa man sexually abused and killed a 3-year-old girl left in his care.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the girl and her 9-month-old twin brothers had been left in the care of Elisamuel Pacheco all week while their mother worked.
Authorities say the girl had been vomiting all week, and her mother thought she had a virus. After a relative found her unresponsive Thursday, the girl was taken to a hospital, where she died.
The medical examiner found that she had signs of sexual battery and internal injuries and ruled her death a homicide. Pcaheco was arrested Friday on charges of first-degree murder, capital sexual battery and aggravated child abuse.
Pacheco was held without bond. Jail records did not show that he had an attorney.

PALMETTO, Fla. (AP) -- A Manatee County family was on the verge of losing their home because of a tax bill glitch, but dozens of donors have stepped forward.
The Herald Tribune reports that Karen Laffler and her family were on the brink of losing the home because a developer failed to pay the appropriate property taxes.
The home, which is valued at $91,000, was custom-built for their needs and donated to them in 2006. Laffler is wheelchair-bound from a stroke that she suffered several years ago. Her daughter, Amanda, was born with spina bifida and also cannot walk.
After a story in the Herald-Tribune, 58 area donors raised $40,560 that the family needed to buy back the home from an investor who had acquired it at the recent tax auction.

WAYNESBORO, Ga. (AP) -- Authorities in eastern Georgia say a sheriff's deputy responding to a fire was wounded as a loaded gun stashed inside the burning building went off in the intense heat.
The Augusta Chronicle reports Burke County Deputy Jay Hollingsworth underwent surgery Friday night. Sheriff's officials said the bullet missed his vital organs.
A statement from the sheriff's office says Hollingsworth was wounded as he responded to a structure fire outside the town of Sardis on Friday afternoon. Authorities say a gun stored inside the building discharged and the bullet struck the deputy.
Officials say Sheriff Gregory Coursey found the wounded deputy to be alert at the hospital Friday and spoke to him before Hollingsworth went into surgery.

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Loggerhead sea turtles have had another record-setting nesting season in Georgia, where the number of nests counted has increased each of the past four years.
The unofficial count along Georgia's 100-mile coastline for the season that runs from May through August is 2,284 nests. That's up from a total of 2,241 nests last year. The official 2013 count could go up when it's released in mid-October.
Mark Dodd, the wildlife biologist who heads Georgia's sea turtle recovery program, says a fourth straight year of increasing nest numbers is another sign the state's loggerhead population is recovering after two decades of up-and-down fluctuations.
Loggerhead sea turtles are protected as a threatened species by federal law. Dodd says it's possible Georgia could hit its recovery goal of 2,800 nests within five years.

GRAY, Ga. (AP) -- Authorities say a toddler has died after falling into a lake at a middle Georgia subdivision.
The Telegraph of Macon reports 1-year-old Andrew Moody was pulled from the water Friday afternoon at the Hampton Lakes neighborhood in Jones County, just north of Macon. The boy was rushed to the Medical Center of Central Georgia, where he was pronounced dead.
Kenny Allen, an investigator for the Jones County Sheriff's Office, says the child was found in the water after a search when the boy's father noticed he was missing.

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